The New York Times Sports department is revisiting the subjects of some compelling stories from the last year or so. In March, the men’s basketball team from St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., became the highest seed in the history of the N.C.A.A. tournament to advance to the round of 8, eliminating second-seeded Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue.
Like a shooting star that briefly lit up the sky, it was over. Just days after St. Peter’s University’s magical run to the round of 8 in the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament as a 15th seed, its coach, Shaheen Holloway, was introduced as the new coach at Seton Hall.
At St. Peter’s, a tiny Jesuit school in the heart of Jersey City, N.J., just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, the players who had just showcased their talents on national television wanted to test the transfer waters. A mass exodus followed.
“Getting the Seton Hall head coaching job was our coach’s dream, and we were all happy for him,” said Doug Edert, one of eight players to survey the situation and transfer out after their coach’s decision. He added, “We kind of talked with each other and said, ‘Let’s go chase our own goals. Because the team wouldn’t be the same without Coach Sha.’”
The move affected at least two other coaches in the area. Bashir Mason, after 10 years at Wagner, got the St. Peter’s job; Donald Copeland, an assistant at Seton Hall, took over at Wagner. (Both coaches played Holloway’s team at Seton Hall this season — and lost big.)
“The lead singer of the band moved on, which he had the right to do,” said Bill Edert, Doug’s father, referring to Holloway. He added, “St. Peter’s is a small, midmajor school, and I guess everybody that was older there figured it was time to move on.”
And move up. Holloway agreed to a contract worth about $2 million annually to return to Seton Hall, his alma mater, a nice raise from the $300,000 he was making.
One of St. Peter’s top players, KC Ndefo, a 6-foot-7 shot-blocking specialist, followed him to Seton Hall as a graduate student to finish, he said, “what I started with Sha.”
Guard Doug Edert, who achieved folk-hero status during the tournament, with even his mustache causing a sensation, transferred to Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., where some spectators now wear St. Peter’s shirts to games. Edert was averaging 7.3 points a game through 13 games.
Daryl Banks III, who scored 27 points in the upset of Kentucky, transferred to St. Bonaventure, where he is the team’s leading scoring with 15.6 points a game and a high of 34.
Hassan and Fousseyni Drame, 6-7 twins from Mali, are contributing at La Salle in Philadelphia. Clarence Rupert, who started at center during the tournament, transferred to Southern Illinois, where he has three years of eligibility remaining. Matthew Lee, after three seasons at St. Peter’s, left for Missouri State. Marty Silvera went to Southern Connecticut State in Division II. The former teammates stay in touch via a weekly text chat.
But don’t cry for St. Peter’s. It went from being a university that most people could not place on a map to being the face of the madness that the N.C.A.A. tournament promises each year. Applications for admission at the university spiked by 33 percent; unrestricted donations exceeded $2.2 million for the first time; online orders for Peacocks gear came from 45 states from March 18 to 20, after the overtime upset of Kentucky. On campus, $47,000 in merchandise sales was recorded from March 17 to 24, more than double the sales from the fall semester.
Two of the St. Peter’s games in March were among the top seven most-watched games of the tournament. More than 10 million people watched the upset of Purdue, making it the most watched round-of-16 game in more than a decade. More than 13 million watched the run end against North Carolina, the tournament’s eventual runner-up. Only the semifinal between Duke and North Carolina and the national final between North Carolina and Kansas drew larger audiences.
The four games will bring St. Peter’s league, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, a total of more than $6 million over the next six years, based on the way the N.C.A.A. shares its tournament money, Rich Ensor, the league’s commissioner, said. A $6 million renovation of St. Peter’s Run Baby Run Arena was completed before the 2021-22 season. But now the gym has a blue-and-white banner that reads, “NCAA 2022 Elite 8,” and lists the 15 players’ names.
Ensor, the MAAC commissioner since 1988, called St. Peter’s run “very dramatic for the institution” in terms of its impact on the school’s profile and the media coverage it received. “For any midmajor, I think it reinforced the value of the Cinderella story in the N.C.A.A. tournament,” he said.
A parade in Jersey City celebrated the team. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey hosted the players at his official residence. Holloway threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a Mets game in his native Queens. Ndefo did the same before a Red Sox-Yankees game in the Bronx. Holloway announced a Jets pick at the N.F.L. draft in Las Vegas, referring to the team as the “New Jersey Jets.”
At St. Peter’s this season, guard Jaylen Murray, whose nickname is Juju, has emerged as the team’s star. The Peacocks are off to a 6-6 under Mason, who says he is sometimes mistaken for Holloway by casual fans around Jersey City.
At Seton Hall, the Pirates are 7-6, with a recent victory over Rutgers, as Holloway tries to blend transfers with returning players. Ndefo has been a steady force, averaging 7.8 points and 4.7 rebounds a game with 29 blocks, among the most nationally.
As for Holloway, his goal is to go further with his new team than with his surprising old team. “I’m hungry,” he said in October at the Big East’s media day. “Now I want a Final Four. I want the national championship.”